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Ellen G. White: The Early Years: 1827-1862 (vol. 1)

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    The William Miller Lectures

    In March, 1840, [Ellen White's earliest accounts, based on memory, incorrectly give the year as 1839 (see Spiritual Gifts, 2:12).] a revival in Portland, Maine, brought some hope to the 12-year-old girl. William Miller lectured in the city on the second coming of Christ. The meetings were held in the Casco Street Christian church. She attended with her friends and family. Her description of the meetings is vivid:1BIO 34.1

    These lectures produced a great sensation, and the Christian church, on Casco Street, that Mr. Miller occupied, was crowded day and night. No wild excitement attended these meetings, but a deep solemnity pervaded the minds of those who heard his discourses. Not only was there manifested a great interest in the city, but the country people flocked in day after day, bringing their lunch baskets, and remaining from morning until the close of the evening meeting.1BIO 34.2

    Mr. Miller dwelt upon the prophecies, comparing them with Bible history, that the end of the world was near. I attended these meetings in company with my friends and listened to the strange doctrines of the preacher. Four years previous to this, on my way to school, I had picked up a scrap of paper containing an account of a man in England who was preaching that the earth would be consumed in about thirty years from that time.... Now I was listening to the most solemn and powerful sermons to the effect that Christ was coming in 1843, only a few short years in the future. The preacher traced down the prophecies with a keen exactitude that struck conviction to the hearts of his hearers. He dwelt upon the prophetic periods, and piled up proof to strengthen his position. Then his solemn and powerful appeals and admonitions to those who were unprepared, held the crowd as if spellbound.—Life Sketches of James White and Ellen G. White (1880), 136, 137.1BIO 34.3

    As to the reaction of the listeners and the influence of his work on the city of Portland, Ellen White observed:1BIO 35.1

    Terrible conviction spread through the entire city. Prayer meetings were established, and there was a general awakening among the various denominations, for they all felt more or less the influence that proceeded from the teaching of the near coming of Christ.—Ibid., 137.1BIO 35.2

    The Maine Wesleyan Journal reported “crowded congregations in [the] Casco Street church.” Miller is described as “self-possessed and ready; distinct in his utterance, and frequently quaint in his expressions.”—Quoted in Nichol, The Midnight Cry, p. 77.1BIO 35.3

    It was reported that Miller held his listeners spellbound, speaking for one and a half or two hours. At times he carried on make-believe conversations between the objector and the inquirer, supplying in a very natural manner the questions and answers. Although he was grave, he sometimes produced a smile from his audience.1BIO 35.4

    The work Miller started in Portland in the thirteen days he spent there continued after his departure. Lorenzo D. Fleming, pastor of the local Christian Connection, reported to Miller soon after the meetings closed:1BIO 35.5

    The good work has been progressing firmly. I should think somewhere near two hundred have professed conversion in our meetings since you left and the good work is spreading all over the city and in the country all around the city. Such a time was never known here. A number of grogshops have been broken up and converted into little meetinghouses. One or two gambling establishments have been also broken up. Little prayer meetings have been set up in almost every part of the city.... Many opposers begin to acknowledge that there is a work of God here.—Quoted in Nichol, The Midnight Cry, p. 76.1BIO 35.6

    Another Fleming letter, the one addressed to Joshua V. Himes, the publisher of the Signs of the Times, reported:1BIO 36.1

    Being down in the business part of our city on the fourth instant [April 4, 1840], I was conducted into a room over one of the banks, where I found about thirty or forty men of different denominations engaged in one accord in prayer at about eleven o'clock in the daytime! ... There was nothing like extravagant excitement, but an almost universal solemnity on the minds of all the people. One of the principal booksellers, informed me that he had sold more Bibles in one month (since Brother Miller came here) than he had in any four months previous.—Quoted in Nichol, The Midnight Cry, p. 78.1BIO 36.2

    Miller's burden of soul is reflected in a letter he wrote as he closed his work in Portland:1BIO 36.3

    Those souls whom I have addressed in my six months’ tour are continually before me, sleeping or waking; I can see them perishing by thousands; and when I reflect on the accountability of their teachers, who say “Peace and safety,” I am in pain for them.—Quoted in Nichol, The Midnight Cry, p. 78.1BIO 36.4

    The memories of 12-year-old Ellen regarding the far-reaching influence of William Miller preaching in Portland are well sustained in contemporary records.1BIO 36.5

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